Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Fear That Never Left the City

I work in Jersey, right on the river and straight across from where those two towers once stood. So you can imagine the scene when the word started bouncing around the office Wednesday: plane crash...Manhattan...another terror attack. People ran to the windows to look, bracing for another scene of distant carnage.

I sat and kept working, opening a newsfeed in a browser window beside my work. It couldn't was impossible...but dread wrapped itself over me like a bloodstained shroud. I realized, almost instantly, how effective the Cheney program of fear had been, even to one who had consciously rejected it.

When a little of what seemed to be the truth became evident, everyone actually relaxed a little; and one fellow made a grim joke of it: "tough week for the Yankees, boy; first the Tigers and now this."

Now you might be tempted to condemn that fellow's remark as heartlessly banal; but what I heard was simply his relief—it wasn't that again; it was just an accident.

I've written a lot about fear; that's because it is what we have been exposed to here in New York these past five years. I'm sure you've been exposed to it, too: it's in our media and our governmental policy; it has infected our interpersonal relationships; it has even gained a new and louder voice in our religious and cultural life. It is, to my mind, perhaps the biggest issue of our private and public life today. We have got to take it on, consciously and on deeper psychological levels; we need to drag it out of its hiding places and shine such light upon it as has never been shed in our lives. We need to be remorseless with it; we need to kill Fear. I believe it is possible. Now I realize, once again, that it is also urgently necessary.


Tomorrow, we will reveal the source of this week's banner quote (we've had one correct answer so far). One last hint: it's from what was probably the best-selling book written by an economist, until Freakonomics came along.

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